Thursday 31 January 2008
This post emerges from a comment I wrote to the response thread in my “Web Standards Aren’t” post, which I hope will clarify my thoughts a bit as well as take a lighter look at what I’m working to articulate here.
I’ve decided to become a Devo rather than a Diva. I’m going to design my new site with frames, tables, spacer gifs, lots of flash embedded into framed pages via iframes. I’m going to use non-semantic, presentational HTML, table based layouts, and lots of inline CSS.
The frightening issue is that I can build such a site so it will validate, pass at least WCAG priority 1 accessibility and have effective SEO.
The mere fact that I can actually do all that and be in compliance with specs should help clarify my point, I hope. It’s not the specs that define Web Standards. We are talking about best practices. We use the term “standards” fast and loose, and for an industry that is so interested in semantics, I find it endlessly ironic that we have chosen such a piss poor description to define a certain level of professional practices.
We co-opted the term “standards” and applied it to something that wasn’t a standard, rather, a series of specifications that are RECOMMENDED practices.
Am I saying stop working to specs? No. Am I saying we’re on the wrong path as we try and build a better Web by increasing education and awareness around specs and best practices – well, if anyone here thinks I mean that you must not have met me or know me too well. Rest assured my heart is right there, I want a better Web, and that means better practices, more education, more resources, more outreach.
I’m challenging the status quo. I’m just asking that you take a look at the semantics of the situation and not be led into a sense of comfort that we actually have achieved any semblance of a standard. If that were true, all browsers would behave the same way, and my code would be just like your code, and every CMS and development software would be interoperable, use correct nomenclature, and follow the specs.
Is that the Web we have? Clearly not. And as we grow and expand both on the desktop and into mobile devices, these issues become more fragmented, not less.
After a fantastic day in Perth I ended up talking to a group of oil workers. Men of all classes and walks of life. Scottish, English, Aussie. Tattoos, guys with attitude, heart, and an amazing decency of soul.
An engineer on an oil rig finds a fitting that’s defective. He tells his mates to fix or replace the fitting.
Following manufacturing specs, the person given the task consults the specs, and he builds it just so.
It fits, and will function. If it does not fit, it is not allowed to be used. Those are standards. The products developed meet manufacturing specs world over, and that’s that.
What we have today, on the Web, are not standards in the truest sense. We are at a time in the evolution of the Web where the idea of “standards” is more of a profound misnomer than ever.
Please Define Web Standards
Bet an Aussie dollar you can’t!
Most folks reading this post will say Web standards are markup and CSS, and maybe, just maybe, accessibility.
Surprise you markup and CSS pedantics, you know, that’s a “standard” too.
Democracy Killed My Grandma
The democratic Web fosters anarchy. That’s not a bad thing per se. I like the idea of anyone having a soap box. It makes for intrigue if not logic.
But professional sites must set some practice that is equivalent to all counterparts. And also supports my Mum when she wants to post a photo.
Don’t you agree?
Context, He Said, Is Everything
There’s a reason that we don’t have standards on the Web, or clearly understand what “standards” really are. The bottom line is it’s not that important.
Web standards aren’t, because democracy demands it.
The grand paradox is that our professional world demands a standard that can be measured and judged. And yet, we need to be free to not be conformists.
Web Standards Really Aren’t
Go ahead, tell me what they are. I know you can’t, because they aren’t. We have specifications, recommendations, implementations and a lot of best practice chatter.
What we do not have is the ace that will fit perfectly in the hole. Web standards aren’t.
It’s time to move on to whatever is next.
Monday 28 January 2008
Today the W3C announced that it has formally published the W3C working draft version of HTML5.
According to Tim Berners-Lee:
“I am glad to see that the community of developers, including browser vendors, is working together to create the best possible path for the Web”
Clearly, Tim remains as optimistic as ever, but from the evidence of the last few weeks, it’s clear this isn’t exactly as happy a situation as it’s made out to be. But, the work is continuing, and that’s noteworthy in and of itself.
Thursday 24 January 2008
If you work in Web design and development and haven’t read any of the articles and discussions taking place regarding IE8 and its use of meta versioning for standards compliance, it’s time to read up on it ASAP. Begin with Aaron Gustafson’s “Beyond DOCTYPE: Web Standards, Forward Compatibility, and IE8” on A List Apart. You can follow the threads from there. Russ Weakley at maxdesign is keeping a good list of the conversations too, so you can drop by and fill up on all
the mud-slinging and drama as it unfolds.
I began to write a response to Shelley Powers’ formidable “Bobbing Heads and the IE8 Meta Tag.” In this article, I’m cited as being in compliance with the Microsoft
meta option. At first I resisted that I was being “compliant,” thinking that despite my discomfort with the option, I thought (and still do think) that it was the best solution that came up during the year-long versioning discussion we had.
The year long, very private, NDA’d versioning discussion. Which is where I have to agree with those who cite me as being “compliant.”
Because this was not a public discussion, and because I and others both internally and externally failed to convince Microsoft to make it a public discussion (although to their credit they did bring in industry advocates), I am in fact in compliance with the
However, this doesn’t mean I agree it’s the right thing to do. I can say that I think it was the best of a list of much more problematic options that were presented. Just think about what naturally came up at first, attaching to the DOCTYPE switch or encouraging the use of conditional comments are both easily identified (but also very problematic) possibilities. And just because I did in the end agree that this was the better choice has nothing to do with silence. We all had legal and ethical responsibilities in that process.
I wish, oh how I wish, we could have all worked on this openly and together. That would have been my dream, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
Holding back the tears
When I began to talk to Microsoft and IE via the WaSP Microsoft Task Force, the conversation was far more open, or at least it appeared that way. When I left WaSP to work with Microsoft in a liaison capacity, that was still true. Over the past few years changes within the company infrastructure led to changes for the IE management hierarchy, and suddenly things got very quiet.
Silence can equal consent, indeed. Which is why I personally focused on breaking that silence. It took enormous pressure internally (and frankly, I believe that’s continuing) as well as my blatantly asking Bill Gates about it this past December to push the doors open again. Finally, this allowed Aaron, who was part of that long versioning discussion, to publicly talk about the switching work being done.
If those hands had not been forced, no one would have heard about this until IE8 landed on our doorsteps.
Out the issues
Now it’s out in the open, prior to a beta. We now know a hell of a lot about IE8 because of this. We can take a damned good guess at what’s actually in IE8 standards-wise because in IE8 standards mode, we have Acid2 compliance. Break down Acid2, and you’ll see what those implementations are or will be.
I believe we are in a much better situation knowing all of this in advance of the product. Was it wrong for Microsoft to shut up? I say yes and I call foul on those folks within the organization who allowed the very positive and productive conversations be shut down so dramatically. Clearly, they made a drastic mistake, which they were warned about by internal folks as well as advisors over and over and over again. So, the more yelling that comes from the Web community and the public press, well, that’s a message Microsoft will listen to so let’s remember that and hope some good comes of it.
Honestly, would it have been better to hide all this information until IE8 landed on our doorsteps? I don’t think so. At least now we have a window into what Microsoft is doing and the conversation, as is evidenced by the activity of the last week, is outed.
Transparency is bullshit, let’s get naked
Open standards must emerge from public, open, bare discussion. Microsoft clearly does not agree with this. It goes against its capitalist cover-up mentality, even when Bill Gates himself has quite adamantly stated that there should be no secrecy around IE8. In fact, he was the one who let the name slip. The fucking name, people! This shows you how ludicrous the lack of communication had become: Gates himself didn’t even know we weren’t allowed to say “IE8.”
This covert behavior is a profound conflict for me as I’m sure readers will at least agree that I’m pretty darned overt by default. But I knew it going in, I just kept and am still keeping my hopes high because that is also my default.
Sometimes the solution is to step back and re-evaluate. Sometimes the solution is to walk away. I haven’t firmed up my personal decisions on that just yet. Maybe it’s time to go back to Old School WaSP-style stinging of MS, but that definitely is not my default.
Can’t we all just get along? No, really. During my time at WaSP, the door was open to a kinder, gentler way. More fool me? So be it. I’m not giving up the greater goal, which is keeping the Web open, free, naked, bare-assed to the world.
Of, by and for
I think about all of us, whether we are “for” or “against” a given approach in the context of Web technologies in general, and I realize how necessary our arguments are. We are some of the world’s smartest, most innovative, committed and passionate people. How we’ll start figuring out better ways to collaborate, change old-school thinking, and encourage positive innovation and growth for the Web, well fuck if I know. Been down several roads (WaSP, for example) to try and see just how to do that.
What I do know is that the Web is still of the people, by the people, and for the people, no matter what Microsoft or anyone else does. And we’re the people to keep it that way. It’s not the what, but the how, and the when, that we have to focus on.
Wednesday 23 January 2008
As I write this I’m sitting on Tumon Bay, Tamuning, Guam, in Micronesia. Tumon Bay is an important ecological environment, most especially due to the coral reefs that are, as just about everywhere, being destroyed all too quickly.
I started my journey on what was my Monday, with a short flight to Houston. There, I met up with the always effervescent Erica O’Grady and wonderfully witty Kelsey Ruger, who joined me along with a fellow traveler just met named Bruce. We drank good wine, talked about social networking, bringing more women to the stage, and the advantages of theater training for speakers, in this case with Kelsey focusing on stand-up comedy to help build his presentation skills. My guess is he’ll find that web design wasn’t his calling after all ;).
After that it was an early flight the next morning to Honolulu, where I made a brief “lei-over” (I know, I amuse myself far too much, but someone has to!). Flying over Oahu I got a clear shot of the inside of Diamond Head:
After a refreshing bit of delicious pineapple, it was back on the plane for another 8 hour leg, this time flying into Micronesia, specifically Guam, for one day here. Guam’s always been a bit elusive to me because I know so many U.S. military folks who have been stationed here over the years. Guam is the westernmost U.S. territory and is far more beautiful than I’d imagined.
Here are some photos I took during my traditional walk at dawn. This is the sun rising over Tumon Bay:
Also along my walk I came upon some strange creatures. What kinds of pods are these? I surely don’t know:
And a pretty but perhaps not so strange creature, too! This is Fuji, and he had a lot to tell me. But he must have been speaking the local language of Chamorro, because while he was clearly befriending me, I had no idea what he was going on about:
Finally, there is nothing quite so wonderful as coming along those spots on the planet where there is nothing but peace. Here’s the hidden cove I found:
Sitting there overlooking the gorgeous day come to bear made me not only happy to be alive, but gave me much-needed respite from the trials and tribulations of a very busy and often challenging life. Somehow, I started this adventure on Monday. And now it’s Thursday. There’s definitely a day in there I lost, but I’m reassured it’ll be given back to me upon my return.
Onward to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!
Tuesday 22 January 2008
I’m in Houston and in a few hours will board a plane that will take me to Guam, then on to Cairns and points in Australia and New Zealand.
There are two concise reasons this trip is important to me:
1). 2008 marks the 20th (yes, that’s TWENTIETH) year online (bbs’s anyone?)
2). I turn 45 on the 25. It’s a rite of passage, I think.
For one month I’m going to explore Australia and New Zealand. I will post photos and ideas and inspiration.
I am also working hard, my current project: massive HTML and CSS testing for MS.
I’m very excited.
Saturday 19 January 2008
Many years ago, sitting on the front step of my dead grandma’s house, I knew I should make myself play a song. The voice I had been given was a good one, and my ear good too. Nothing great, but I could sing and harmonize.
Things happen in life. You’re walking down the road and a person walks up to you – it changes you forever. Or maybe nothing happens in life. Maybe you’re destined to be huddled up in the back of the Starbucks in your grey and black coat. Coffee, brewed too hot, burns.
I used to have a guitar. I used to sing, write songs.
I used to sit on the front step of my grandma’s house. Playing a guitar, remembering how beautiful she was and that she, too
used to have a guitar.
Saturday 12 January 2008
When traveling, I always notice I need to pack extra cables and wires, transformers and adapters.
The luggage I pack is sometimes filled with so many wires, cables, power supplies and other do-das that I am quick to wonder if something about all this is a bit fishy.
Do you have more cables now as a result of all our “wireless” devices or less than when we were “wired”?
Saturday 5 January 2008
I often post pictures and words about weather. Bits of me here and there. Then, somehow, Twitter sucked the blogging out of me. Made me write in 140 characters less.
People ask “why don’t you blog so much anymore, Molly? Is it your work?”
Nah, it’s Twitter. Sucked the blog out of me in 2007.
I’m almost ready to make 2008 Twitter-free.
Close to making it IM-free too.
How about you?